When it comes to buying a football team, it looks like slim pickings for Majestic Realty’s Ed Roski, experts say

By James Wagner
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Published: June 19, 2010

INDUSTRY – Much has changed since local billionaire Ed Roski Jr. embarked on his most recent quest to bring professional football back to the Los Angeles region.

He flexed his political muscle, fighting back two lawsuits with an unprecedented state bill, which gave his $800-million, 75,000-seat stadium full approval to build in Industry.

Now, Roski, CEO and Chairman of Majestic Realty Co., however, is trying to pin down at least one of seven moving targets: an NFL team.

Buying a team is no easy task, said Michael Rapkoch, founder and president of Dallas-based Sports Value Consulting, LLC, who has advised professional teams.

“It’s very hard,” he said. “First, it has to be for sale. Second, you have to agree on the prices.”

That’s all in addition to financing, league approval, local TV contracts and more, he said.

And of the seven teams Roski has targeted, some are trying their best to stay in their cities.

Majestic Realty Vice President John Semcken, who oversees the project, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco 49ers cleared a needed hurdle to stay in the region. Santa Clara voters approved a stadium package on June 8 that included $114 million in public contributions for 68,500-seat stadium projected to open for the 2014 season.

The team sunk about $4 million into a campaign to promote the deal.

“Our priority always was to stay in the Bay Area. We’ve been in the San Francisco-Bay Area for 60 years,” team spokeswoman Lisa Lang said. “So with this vote, we we’ve been able to remove a major hurdle in the Santa Clara stadium site and are very pleased with the outcome.”

The 49ers have had no recent contact with the Roski or any of his representatives, Lang said.

The 49ers stadium plan allows for a second team.

A Santa Clara stadium could be shared with the Oakland Raiders, another Roski-targeted organization.

A Raiders spokesman respond to a request for comment.

In St. Louis, minority owner Stan Kroenke said in April he wanted to keep the team in St. Louis, quelling rumors the team would return to L.A.

He bought 40 percent of the Rams in 1995 as they were leaving for St. Louis. But majority owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez – children of late owner Georgia Frontiere – have been trying to sell the team.

To buy out Rosenbloom and Rodriguez, however, Kroenke needs the approval of other owners and needs to comply with league cross-ownership rules. Kroenke, who owns the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets, hopes to transfer some or all of his stake his NBA team to his family.

In Buffalo, owner Ralph Wilson has said he has no intention of selling the team.

In January, Semcken said the Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars were top choices among the seven because they were small-market teams struggling with ticket sales. He also said their owners were willing to sell.

That quickly drew the ire Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, who did his part to assure fans the Bills weren’t leaving town.

A Bills spokesman did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

In Jacksonville, despite having a losing team and struggling to fill the stadium, Jaguars officials said they are committed to the city.

The team and owner Wayne Weaver have had no recent contact with the Roski or any of his representatives, team spokesman Dan Edwards said.

With promotions that included former players, the Jaguars are ahead of their normal pace of selling tickets, Edwards said. So far, the team has nearly 36,800 new season ticket sales and renewals. The team plays in a 82,000-seat stadium owned by the city.

“We’re continuing to sell at a steady pace and are optimistic for the upcoming season,” he said.

In San Diego, the Chargers have their sights on building a $800-million downtown stadium. To do so, a cap on redevelopment funds would have to be lifted and lengthy study would be needed. A vote on the issue could happen this week.

The team has tried for years to move out of Qualcomm Stadium, which hosted the team’s first game in 1967.

A team representative did not return messages seeking comment.

In Minnesota, the Vikings have said they must line up funding for a new stadium in the state’s next legislative year. The team for years has been trying to find a new home in Minnesota.

“Having an NFL team in Minnesota requires a stadium solution,” the team said in May in a written statement. “This solution must be finalized in the 2011 Session.”

The team’s lease to play in the Metrodome, one of the oldest and smallest venues in the NFL, runs through the 2011 season. And the team has said there will be no extension until a stadium deal is in place.

To make matters worse, the state’s economic outlook appears bleak. A team spokesman did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

Some sports business experts aren’t picking the Vikings, Bills or Jaguars to move to L.A.

“I don’t see a team coming from (there) going to the West Coast,” Rapkoch said. “It disrupts too much.”

Other issues complicate a potential move to L.A., experts say.

Two sports executives, including a former Roski business partner, unveiled their concept in April for building a separate NFL stadium in downtown L.A.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has raised concerns about how Roski will finance his stadium.

And some sports experts say the NFL is focused on resolving its labor issue with its players, which some fear could last through next year.

Until then, they say, little progress will be made on moving a team to L.A.

The Denver Post, St. Paul Pioneer Press and San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.


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